Candidates for town council may not be the only thing residents see on their March ballot. Town councilors are considering asking voters to approve a bond referendum to acquire more property.
The details of such a referendum won’t be finalized until January, which is the deadline for the language to be submitted to the Supervisor of Elections Office.
During a roundtable discussion last week, councilors asked staff to draw up a proposed referendum where the bond is between $15 million and $20 million; add recreational uses as a type of land they could purchase, in addition to traffic mitigation, environmentally sensitive, archaeologically significant or historically important; and have a list of lands for sale for voters to see.
“It’s basically now or never for a referendum,” Vice-Mayor Ron Delaney said. “There’s no more land left.”
The site of the former Suni Sands Mobile Home Park, or portions of it, and the Golf Club of Jupiter were cited as potential properties to buy, but the price tag might be a deterrent. According to a town estimate from 2017, the Suni Sands property was worth about $25 million.
“I don’t think we could go after all of [Suni Sands] unless voters wanted to take a huge hit in the tax rolls and approve a large number,” Councilor Ilan Kaufer said.
Tax-paying residents currently pay into two 20-year bonds. An $11.3 million bond was approved in 2001 to pay for the Jupiter Community Center. The second, a $17 million bond approved in 2005, was used to buy 60 acres of land over nine years, including Delaware Scrub in 2005, Cinquez Park in 2008 and Washington Street Preserve in 2011. The community center bond will mature in 2021, and the open space bond will mature in 2025.
Councilor Jim Kuretski noted that previous voter support could bode well this time around.
“From a sales pitch/marketing perspective, we’ve gone to the public twice [and] were successful in asking them to invest in the future,” he said.
The discussion for a second open space bond began in 2017. Town Financial Director Mike Villella said a 20-year bond referendum would cost $3 per $1 million borrowed for someone whose home is valued at $400,000. To put the referendum language together, legal fees are estimated to be between $10,000 and $15,000.